Jan Egeland in Gaza. Photo: Yousef Hammash/NRC

Gaza: Trapped civilians facing bombardment and starvation

Published 29. Feb 2024
Statement from Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, following his visit to Gaza:

“What I have witnessed in Gaza this week is a civilian population engulfed by destruction, desperation and despair. Famine is a growing threat here, as millions of trapped people face a nightmare of violence and starvation. 

“The children of Gaza are visibly malnourished, reduced to searching the streets for food and assistance. It is unimaginable that an entire population is left to starve while vast amounts of supplies sit waiting just a few miles away across the border. 

“On my way into Gaza, I passed hundreds of trucks, all unable to reach those in dire need. Only by ensuring that the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, as well as the northern Karni and Erez crossings are used at full capacity will civilians have a chance of receiving sufficient life-saving aid. 

“We must be clear: civilians in Gaza are falling sick from hunger and thirst because of Israel’s entry restrictions. Life-saving supplies are being intentionally blocked, and women and children are paying the price. 

"Israel, as the occupying power, is duty-bound to ensure the provision of food and supplies for Gaza's population. However, it has failed to provide or facilitate the delivery of means essential for their survival. 

"Despite the International Court of Justice's ruling over a month ago for Israel to implement effective measures to enable basic services and humanitarian aid, access for trucks have been reduced from January to February. This situation is particularly dire in northern Gaza, where families are on the brink of famine.  

“Israel has also threatened further bloodshed with a full-scale military offensive in Rafah. Any military offensive in this area will lead to mass casualties where over 1.4 million people are sheltering. You cannot conduct a brutal war in the world’s largest displacement sites, against families who have already suffered immensely.  

“I am shaken to my core by seeing and hearing of the suffering across Gaza. The civilian population is deeply traumatised as they tell me of multiple displacements and now living on top of each other in an overcrowded Rafah, all the way to the south of Gaza. They are living in constant fear amid the looming threat of an Israeli ground operation. They find themselves at their last refuge in Gaza, with diminishing options for safety. I have never in all my years as a humanitarian worker seen such an intense bombardment over so many days with such a trapped population without any escape. 

“Israel and its allies - including the United States, United Kingdom and Germany - continue to provide political and military support for warfare that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives. This must end. Civilians on either side cannot be used as bargaining chips. It is essential that Hamas immediately release all hostages, and that Israel lifts the siege on Gaza.  

“Those states supporting the parties to the conflict must understand the consequences for civilians in Gaza. They must insist on a ceasefire and full humanitarian access and aid supplies. The human suffering in Gaza is already beyond belief, and this war on civilians must end immediately.”   

Notes to editors:

  • According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October.
  • According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, two infants have died in northern Gaza as a result of dehydration and malnutrition (UN OCHA).
  • 1.7 million people in Gaza are currently internally displaced (UN OCHA).
  • 2.3 million people in Gaza – the entire population – are facing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity. Of those, 1.17 are experiencing emergency levels of hunger and around 0.5 million catastrophic (UN OCHA).
  • Photos and b-roll from Egeland’s visit to Gaza are available for free use here.

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